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Though frequently referred to as “the Scottish play”, Shakespeare’s shortest work has rarely felt so rooted north of the border as it does in director Jamie Lloyd’s gorily visceral production

It's the first  in the radically reconfigured main auditorium, which now seats the audience on two sides of the stage.

Set in a dark, dystopian Scotland several decades in the future, it’s a cruel, feral reading in which the porter (usually the drunken comic relief) joins the hired murderers in Banquo’s despatch, the witches wear gasmasks and Claire Foy’s wan Lady Macbeth still mourns a child lost in early infancy.

At the troubled centre is James McAvoy’s virile, axe-wielding Macbeth – a warrior through and through who comes back from war unable to embrace his wife when he first sees her and, later, with deliberate brutality, repeatedly thrusts his sword into Macduff’s young offspring. 

Much of Lloyd’s post-apocalyptic vision works – the flashing lightning which separates scenes, the gushing blood which pools on the floor, the regicidal thane in his ragged clothes puking into a grubby toilet - but when the focus temporarily shifts to Malcolm (who seeks safety in a lighter, brighter England) the pace slows drastically pushing the running time to not far short of three hours.

But McAvoy is electric – vicious in battle, racked by visions and, finally, a sardonic observer of the tyrant he has become by bringing murder into his own home.

Trafalgar Studios
Whitehall, SW1A 2DY
Tube | Charing Cross 
till 27th April (£10- £54.50)

Photo: Johan Persson


Theatre review: Macbeth, starring James McAvoy, at Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall
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